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Louisiana softball begins season of sweeping changes

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Feb. 7, 2018

It’s a whole new ball game.

Despite being a powerhouse marked by stability and consistency for three decades, that’s the best mindset for all involved with the 2018 UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball program this spring.

Just consider the changes.

For the first time since UL softball began in 1981, the head coach won’t be a native, resident or ex-player.

More: SBC coaches: UL's domination of league will end

Gerry Glasco takes over a program still rebounding in some ways to an offseason of controversy that saw longtime head coach Michael Lotief abruptly dismissed from the program on Nov. 1.

In addition to moving on without Lotief and his tradition of producing top-notch offensive arsenals, two All-American sluggers in shortstop DJ Sanders and outfielder Aleah Craighton, as well as ace pitcher Alyssa Denham transferred.

Some fans have left the program. Some have stayed. Some have returned.

It’s a whole new ball game.

The differences will likely be huge in some areas and smaller in others.

The big question entering Glasco’s first season as head coach is: Will the program take a step backward in 2018?

More: 2018 UL Softball Schedule

The Sun Belt coaches feel the Cajuns will crawfish at least one level lower, predicting Texas State to win the conference race with UL second.

With the start of the Mardi Gras Classic on Thursday at Lamson Park, longtime UL softball fans will begin the evaluation process into this new era of Ragin’ Cajun softball.

“We’re doing fine,” Glasco said. “It’s not the normal scenario, but it is the scenario we’ve got. No excuses. We’re just going to play. I feel like we’re ready. The kids have been phenomenal in practice. They work hard. They’re very dedicated to getting better. They’ve had a fantastic attitude. They expect to win.”

In addition to losing five of their six first-team All-Sun Belt players from a year ago, the 2018 Cajuns didn’t really have a “fall season,” or at least not one under Glasco.

Typically, UL is one of the most prepared softball teams in the country in February. Practice is different under Glasco.

More: 2018 UL Softball Roster

“I wasn’t here in the fall, but it sounded like the fall was very disrupted and not the normal sequence,” Glasco said. “They probably didn’t get as many coached reps as you normally would.

“But we’re learning to maximize our time. One of the things we struggled with at first was the pace. I wanted the pace to be quick. I want them to go from one drill to the next one quickly and efficiently. They struggled with that because they’ve never worked on a time schedule. We’re trying to make it efficient.”

Although there remain too many questions for anyone to know the answers to at this point in the season, Glasco has certainly seen enough to know the program still possesses plenty of talent.

He’s not shy at starting with third baseman Kara Gremillion as the unofficial new face of the program, even though she's only a sophomore.

“Any conversation about our team has to start with Kara Gremillion,” Glasco said. “She just works so hard. She’s a very special player. She’s a very talented player. She personifies what you look for in terms of hustle and showing up every day and giving her best effort in every drill and in every phase of practice. She’s a quiet leader and I like that.

“In just a few minutes of practice, I knew exactly who she was by the way she played the game. It’s pure hustle. I just adore the way she plays the game.”

Gremillion won’t be joined by Sanders on the left side this year, but Oklahoma transfer Alissa Dalton is still expected to be a strength of the team at shortstop.

More: UL Softball Position Outlook

“Defensively, I think she’s as good as any shortstop in the country,” Glasco said. “Offensively, she’s a totally different player than DJ. She’ll do it in her own way, but at the end of the year, I expect her to be a really good offensive player for us.